Nobody in his or her right mind can doubt of Padraig Harrington’s incredible competitive character. The Irishman has proved over the years that he can come out with oil out of a dry field. Does this mean that selecting him for the Ryder Cup team is the right decision? Definitely not…
There are plenty of reasons to doubt of the captain’s decision. First, the Ryder Cup is a very special competition with a very distinctive characteristic: is a team tournament. Harrington has proved to be an excellent leader… for himself. We never see him cheering the group, shaking a teammate out of a bad moment, or giving encouraging words to his pairing… We’ve seen him finishing a game of foursome or fourball, looking to the captain like saying ‘I did what I could…’.
Harrington is no leader for the Ryder. He failed in his first try in Valhalla, where he played as the winner of the Open and the PGA Championship. He was the best player in the world at that time… but he was missing in action. It doesn’t seem that Paddy cares too much for the Ryder Cup. And if he does, it doesn’t show.
His record is nothing special. Montgomerie said on Sunday that Harrington is one of those players that you don’t want to play against in match play. It’s true that he has more victories than defeats in individual matches in the Ryder Cup (3 wins and 2 losses). But when one thinks about a ‘great enemy’, Monty himself comes to mind, who never lost a single individual match in a Ryder Cup, with six wins and two ties. That is truly amazing.
Ryder aside, Paddy’s best results in hole by hole competition came in the World Match Play at Wentworth. He’s played four times this tournament and he ended second, third, fifth and ninth. However, at the Accenture, out of eleven shows he only made it to the quarterfinals in two occasions and five times he was defeated in first round.
Harrington has shown along his career that his game is more effective in medal play. He is an expert when a tournament turns into a long battle of survival. In other words: Harrington is good at not making bogeys, and struggles when it is a matter of making birdies. In match play, the birdie-makers win.
Harrington is also a tough player to find a pairing for. Montgomerie said that one of the reasons Luke Donald is in the team is because he is a good foursome and fourball player. You can team up the Englishman with anybody and the couple becomes better. He’s done it time and time again with Sergio Garcia and Lee Westwood. And also in the World Cup he won in Seville, precisely with Paul Casey. But Harrington is not a good pairing. It is a little bit like Tiger. He’s yet to find his alter ego. Like I said, the Irishman is terrific… playing for himself. His record in couples in the Ryder Cup is 4 wins, 9 losses and 3 ties. In pairs, each player can end up playing for four points, while individually will only play for one.
One of the reasons to support Harrington’s presence in Wales is that the European team is very young and needs a leader. We know they are young, but they are not inexperienced. Besides, the true leader is Colin Montgomerie himself, possibly the most charismatic captain since Seve Ballesteros. No need for more leaders.
I miss Paul Casey in this team. He is a player that we’ve seen transmitting energy to the rest of the team in Ryder Cups. Also, Casey is a great match play player.
Do I think Harrington will be dead weight for the European team in Wales? Of course not… Not everything is black or white.
P.S.: I keep my fingers crossed and hope these words are the first step for Harrington to win all five points in Wales…
By Alejandro Rodríguez